The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Clare McClintock, Field Hockey
Hometown: Larchmont, N.Y.
Concentration: Applied Mathematics
House Affiliation: Dunstar
Each game this fall, before stepping out onto the field, Harvard field hockey players would gather in the locker room to hear a pump-up speech from a teammate (or two). For the underclassmen, this was a time to get the team excited and energized for the competition ahead. For the eight seniors, these speeches were an opportunity to reflect on what Harvard field hockey has meant to us, how the team has impacted our Harvard experience, and why we chose to give 20+ hours per week to this sport. When my turn came around, I decided to speak about the family I have found in this team and the invaluable experience my teammates have given me.
The summer before my freshman year, five days before my high school graduation, my father passed away from a sudden heart attack. A month later, I was at Harvard field hockey camp, vying to become the sole walk-on of the team. I’d be lying if I said that I was still convinced I wanted the spot. Without my dad, my biggest fan, a huge motivator in my athletic career, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play field hockey or if I even still had the competitive mentality for athletics. Nevertheless, when Coach Tjerk invited me to come back for preseason in August and tryout for the team, I accepted, hoping for my love of athletics to re-spark.
When I stepped on to the field for preseason, I thought I had made a huge mistake. I was, by far, the worst player on the field – often holding up drills and interrupting practice as a result. I was sure that I couldn’t be a contributing member of this team, and I convinced myself that I didn’t want to be. I thought there was no way the time, effort, and energy would account to anything worthwhile for me. At the end of preseason, Tjerk told me I probably wouldn’t see much playing time that year, but I had made the team. He gave me two weeks to decide if I would join. Though I had my doubts, my freshman advisor suggested that I stick with it for at least the year. In retrospect, this might have been the best advice I’ve received at Harvard.
Four field hockey seasons (and one Ivy League title) later, I cannot image my life without HFH. Not only was the sport an outlet from work, a way to relieve stress and help me focus on school, but it also brought about the care and support of incredible teammates and their families. Though my skills were behind every else’s freshman year, I was constantly encouraged. Caitlin Rea, a junior at the time, noted almost every week how much my skills were improving, keeping my spirits high when I could have easily given up. Whenever I got playing time on the field, Kyla Cordrey’s parents were quick to note any good move I made.
The support of my teammates and their families extended far beyond the field, though. After I attended a memorial service for my father freshman fall, I came back to campus to see notes and sweets from my fellow freshmen in my dorm room. If I ever showed a hint of sadness, I would have multiple texts from teammates later that day, checking in on me and seeing if I wanted to talk. If my mom wasn’t around for a game, a teammate’s parents would take me out to dinner with their daughter or just spend extra time chatting with me at the post-game tailgates. These little gestures throughout my four years made me feel loved and cared for in a time when I was lonely and experiencing a level of sadness I had never encountered before.
Winning an Ivy League title senior year was pretty phenomenal, but what will stick with me so much longer is how proud I am to have been a part of such a supportive group of women. Being a member of this family of smart, talented, and multifaceted athletes has been more impactful on my Harvard experience than I could have possibly predicted.